Evangelical leaders, including Russell Moore, Kay Warren, and Beth Moore, have criticized Christians who continue to defend Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore despite allegations that he sexually assaulted teenage girls while in his early 30s.
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, condemned those who have used the example of Mary and Joseph in the Bible as a means to defend relationships between adults and teenagers
"My blood pressure has been elevated in recent days with people suggesting that even when such horrible things take place that it's the equivalent of Mary and Joseph -- no, it's not," Moore, who is not related to Roy Moore, said during an appearance on Anderson Cooper 360. "Or, as I heard one person say on television, I believe it was yesterday, that this would be a misdemeanor, so it would be the equivalent of stealing a lawnmower. Stealing a lawnmower? That's the most horrifying, sort of moral relativism that I can imagine, especially when we're living a country where there are so many women and girls who have their lives being crushed by powerful men who are using sexual advances, sexual assault against them."
He added, "We need to have the moral clarity to come out and say, 'Sexual assault is always immoral and always wrong.'"
Popular evangelist and Christian author Beth Moore, who is also a survivor of sexual abuse took to Twitter to warn against the church excusing sin.
"This idea that God puts up with secret sins from His servants for the greater good is a total crock. He waits, warns, waits, warns then comes for us with a blazing bulldozer," she wrote on Monday.
"I know because Scripture says. I know because I've experienced it. God will not be mocked," she added. "Sexual assault is not an issue. It's a crime."
Kay Warren, wife of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, re-tweeted both Beth Moore and Russell Moore's comments on the issue.
Last week, The Washington Post reported that four women said Roy Moore, 70, had pursued them sexually or romantically when they were 18 or younger several decades ago. One woman said the Southern Baptist Judge touched her sexually when she was 14, below the age of consent.
However, Moore continues to deny the charges, arguing that the claims against him are part of an organized effort by the liberal media to ensure he loses the senatorial election.
While The National Republican Senatorial Committee, a fundraising arm of the national party, has severed ties with Moore, and a growing list of Republican leaders have urged him to step down, some continue to defend him.
Rev. Jamie Holcomb, of Young's Chapel Congregational Methodist Church in Piedmont, told CNN: "I've known him my whole life and I've never known him to do anything inappropriate. I stand behind him 100%, unless there's proof."
He added, "If (his accusers) are found to have been assaulted, I'll be the first to condemn it. If true, he needs to resign."
"I've known Roy Moore for 25 years," Gallant First Baptist Church Pastor Tom Brown told AL.com on Sunday. "He's been a man of integrity, honor and character."
Mike Allison, pastor of Madison Baptist Church, similarly referred to Moore as "a man of integrity."
"I don't even believe the allegations. There's lots of fake news going around these days," he told CNN. "They're allegations. How can he even defend himself against 40-year-old allegations? You used to be innocent until proven guilty."
"I support him now more than ever," he said.